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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 April, 2005, 09:29 GMT 10:29 UK
Tories propose more faith schools
lesson in RC school
The Tories say parents want more faith schools
The Conservatives say they want to see "perhaps thousands" more faith schools.

Education spokesman Tim Collins says a commitment to a major expansion of religious schools "is absolutely at the heart of the Conservative vision".

He says Christian, Jewish and Islamic schools have higher standards and a stronger ethos than secular schools.

Labour is committed to allowing faith schools where residents want them; the Lib Dems have denied the "myth" that they want to halt their development.

"We must have more of them - not a handful here and there, but hundreds, ultimately perhaps thousands, more," the Tories' Tim Collins says.

'Moral compass'

His spokesman said it would be up to faith groups to come forward with proposals for new schools.

Conservative policy is for the state to support these provided they accept Ofsted inspection, teach the national curriculum and admit a minimum of 10% of pupils from other faiths or none.

His comments are in a speech for a prize-giving ceremony at St Ambrose College, a Catholic boys' grammar near Altrincham, Greater Manchester.

Mr Collins will lament "decades of departure from faith and family".

He says this has resulted in broken homes, children "without a moral compass", more drug misuse and abortions, and "feral, scavenging youngsters preying on the old and vulnerable".

So it was time "to reassert some simple, commonsense truths" shared by all the major religions.

'Stronger'

"Faith schools do not divide communities," he will say, "They brought people together.

They are among the few places where the young can seek out answers to the really big questions - not who will win Pop Idol but what is the purpose of my life ...
Tim Collins
"They are among the few places where the young can seek out answers to the really big questions - not who will win Pop Idol but what is the purpose of my life and what happens after my death."

He will say: "So a commitment to a major expansion of faith schools is absolutely at the heart of the Conservative vision for better education in the 21st century.

"Parents want them. Children benefit from them. Society is stronger for them."

The Labour Party is also committed to allowing more faith schools where people want them - and saw off a backbench rebellion on the issue in 2002.

Many of its new city academies are being sponsored by church groups.

The Liberal Democrat education spokesman, Phil Willis, said recently he wanted to "dispel the myth" about his party's attitude to faith schools.

"We have no proposals whatsoever to close Church schools or to prevent the establishment of others," he said.

The head of the Ofsted English education inspectorate, David Bell, upset Muslim groups in particular when he criticised some Muslim schools earlier this year for failing to do enough to promote tolerance and harmony between different cultural traditions.


Would you like to see more faith schools? Do you think religious schools provide a strong moral education for children or do you think they are divisive? Send us your views using the form below.

Your comments:

SUGGEST A DEBATE
This topic was suggested by Kate Corwyn, Exeter, England
Both of the major parties have said that they want more faith schools, should this be encouraged

I have no problems with the faith schools that already exist, they provide an excellent education for the children of people who choose to send them there. I do have a problem with plans to introduce more faith schools and with the current plans, taking place in my local area, of allowing Church groups to run schools. These plans drastically reduce the options for those of us who want our children to have a good education but also to make their own choice about religion. Our local council claims that in taking over the running of our local comprehensive, the group involved will in no way force their religious beliefs on the pupils. Reports from parents whose schools have had interaction with Church groups suggest that it is otherwise.
Annie, Sheffield, UK

Faith schools superficially show higher standards because they are inherently selective
Laura Sewell, London
Education should be a time when all are equal, differences are overcome and where the secular, inclusive values of British society are taught and celebrated. Faith schools superficially show higher standards because they are inherently selective and demand parental involvement. This reflects the failure of the unreformed and under-funded state schools, not the superiority of faith ones. Such schools are a historical inheritance but are divisive in concept. There should be no more founded.
Laura Sewell, London

I think there is a place for more faith schools - they are all over-subscribed in my area. I wonder though if moral values have just become another consumer choice we make for our children but not for us though?
Tim, Brentwood, Essex

To blame the ills of society on secular schooling is utterly ridiculous and not borne out by the facts. I don't want my children being taught that homosexuality is evil, or that getting married is somehow the cure to moral delinquency, or that other people's religions are false. I will be teaching my children at home at this rate.
Robert Pugsley, Birstall, UK

Look where faith schools have got Northern Ireland; hardly a beacon of a united community. Faith schools are a highly artificial environment that do not reflect the reality of the real world where people of differing views, religions and faiths must live alongside one another (and not in segregation). I would like to see all faith schools abolished.
Nick James, Bexley, Kent, UK

There's nothing like dividing children from an early age to prevent them from understanding people from different faiths and cultural background. Are we to have the majority of inner city Muslims schooled separately from children of Christian and other faiths hereby hindering the ability of the nation's future from living together in comfort and without prejudice? Having grown up in Glasgow, one can easily see the effect of catholic versus protestant schools in solidifying the bigoted opinions of a small but vocal minority. If you doubt me, wait until the next Rangers V Celtic clash.
Kaz Rahman, London

We simply cannot have schools teaching bigotry as a matter of course in this country
John Braham, Hastings, UK
I fail to believe that faith schools bring people together where they specifically teach discrimination against portions of society such as homosexuals. Mass forced indoctrination into religion should be left in the last century so we can all move forward with our eyes open. We simply cannot have schools teaching bigotry as a matter of course in this country.
John Braham, Hastings, UK

I agree faith based schools generally have higher standards and those that are open to others help overcome religious divides not enforce them.
Karen Allen, Peebles - Scotland

Just when I was contemplating the possibility of voting Tory for the first time in my life, they come up with something to change my mind! Michael, you're a genius! As a committed atheist, the last thing I want to see is more faith schools pushing religion down kids' throats. I do not want to live in the source of theocracy that the US is in danger of becoming.
Neal Hawman, York, Yorkshire

I would welcome schools teaching about all the world's faiths and philosophies but not mono-religion schools peddling the notion that they speak the one and only truth.
Stephen Kelly, Barcelona, Spain

Wouldn't careful study of what 'faith' schools do differently to others be of more use than blindly crediting them with better results? Improving standards through stronger discipline and an altered curriculum may ultimately prove more beneficial to our children than reintroducing them to schools founded on ultimately outmoded and irrelevant concepts.
Ross Childs, Leeds, UK

I'd like to see religion removed from school, full stop and from politics and the state, and left to the people still backward enough to believe in god.
Trevor, UK

Faith schools are at the heart of support for family life
Gregory Simmons, Tamworth
I strongly support the initiative to expand faith schools. Faith schools are at the heart of support for family life and a stable, civilised society. Too often we have seen religious matters whittled away from the state education system by so called 'progressive' activists at teachers' conferences and the like, with no added values in return. We are now reaping the results of this in our fractured society.
Gregory Simmons, Tamworth, Staffordshire

I went to a faith based school where religion was rammed down my throat at every opportunity. Is it any wonder that as an adult I have very little time for faiths of any kind? If people wish to practise their own faiths then fine, but don't force it on children as one day they may resent it.
James, Windsor, England

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